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Oberlin College Must Pay Bakery $11M

State jury finds college libeled owners, hurt business
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2019 10:35 AM CDT
In this Nov. 22, 2017, photo, pedestrians pass the storefront of Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

(Newser) – Two and a half years after mass protests regarding a local bakery, Oberlin College has been ordered to pay that bakery $11 million. The story started in November 2016, when Gibson's Bakery, which is across the street from the Ohio private college, suspected a black Oberlin student of shoplifting and using a fake ID. Allyn Gibson (the owners' son, per Fox News) got into an altercation with him and two other black students. The next day, more than 100 people attended a student-organized protest outside the bakery, chanting things like "Gibson's is racist" and handing out pamphlets encouraging people to boycott the bakery and claiming it had a racist history. Oberlin also put a hold on business done with the bakery, per Inside Higher Ed. However, the three students were eventually arrested and admitted fault; they pleaded guilty and signed statements affirming the incident wasn't based on race.

In November 2017, Gibson's sued Oberlin and its dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, accusing the school of helping to organize the protests and encouraging students to demonstrate, using university funds to buy gloves for students involved in the protest and passing a resolution, via the student government, stating that Gibson's was racist. Deans, professors, and other college staffers also took part in the protest, per CNN. On Friday, a state jury found the college had libeled the bakery owners, interfered with business relationships, and inflicted emotional distress. Oberlin had argued it shouldn't be liable for "the independent peaceful exercise of federal First Amendment rights by the institution's students and its employees," saying after the verdict it was working "to ensure that students' freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful." (Oberlin once canceled classes after racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic incidents.)

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